How Financial Aid for Joint Degree Programs Works

Financing Your Joint Degree

Now that you've decided on a joint degree, you need to find a way to pay for it. Taking classes for four years to earn a law degree and an MBA at Harvard, for example, will probably set you back about $180,000 for tuition alone [source: HBS-HLS Joint Degree Program]. Again, unless you have a trust fund, most likely you're going to have to obtain both federal student aid and assistance from the school or schools to pay the tab.

Here's how to get started. Before you even apply to any programs, you should fill out the online application for federal student aid at There's a preliminary worksheet and a list of financial documents that you'll need to complete the application. The federal government awards about $100 billion a year in grants, loans and work-study assistance [source: FAFSA].

Next, you should scrutinize the aid opportunities available from various schools that offer joint-degree programs, even before you decide which ones to apply to. Schools should have information about this on their Web sites. The amount of aid available can vary tremendously from university to university.

You also want to look at the complexity of financing when you're picking a program. Generally, the least complicated situation is getting joint degrees from two departments at the same university. For example, at the University of Seattle students working toward a joint law degree and masters degree can simply designate the law school as their "home program" for the entire four years, which enables them to obtain all their financing -- loans, grants, work-study arrangements -- through the law school [source: Seattle University]. But that isn't always the case. For example, a student in a joint-degree program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has to apply for aid separately from that department and also from the other school at Yale where he or she will be taking classes [source: Yale].

It gets more complicated if you're in a program that involves two different universities. For example, the Stern School of Business at New York University (NYU) cautions joint-program applicants that they can only use aid obtained through NYU sources to pay for the NYU part of the program. You have to apply separately to the other institution for aid for its part of the curriculum. If you're contemplating such a program, it's crucial to check out both schools' aid packages [source: Stern].

For more on financial aid, check into the links on the next page.